8 Tips to Build a Winning SEO Strategy in 2021
In this post, you’re going to learn everything you need to know in order to carry out an effective SEO (search engine optimization) strategy. We’re going to cover:
- What SEO is and why it’s more important than ever.
- The basics of an SEO strategy (keywords, metadata, and link-building, technical components).
- Eight specific tactics that will set you up for SEO success based on 2021 SEO trends.
8 tips to apply to your 2021 SEO strategy
It isn’t always about trying to go for the most popular search terms and expecting to be able to compete with the big fish right out of the gate. It’s about knowing your audience and trying to provide the content, information, and overall service they want/need. With that in mind, here are eight SEO tips that are just as effective now in 2021 as they have always been.
1, Write for humans first and search engines second
As mentioned already, the Google algorithm gets smarter by the day and using constant human input, continues to better align with our thinking. That being said, there is no clever loophole or magic formula to outwit a search engine, so don’t bother trying. Write for humans first and search engines second.
Ultimately, your priority should always be to provide your audience with what they are looking for, and that only comes through writing engaging and fundamentally naturalistic content. Anyone can spot a keyword that’s been shoehorned in and stuffing is even more blatant, so fit them in where it makes sense and allow driving keywords to elevate your already informative and valuable content.
2, Use targeted keywords in all the right places
Whilst the motivation should always be humans first, search engines second, the bedrock of this whole process is keywords. Not only do they get to the heart of what visitors and Google are looking for by isolating common search terms, but SEO also drives 1000%+ more traffic than organic social media, which itself dominates over half of all online traffic. So, if keywords are at the heart of SEO, they should be at the heart of everything you do, too.
However, once again, it isn’t about just chucking them in left, right, and center. It all starts with keyword research. Use SEO tools like Google Ads, Ahrefs, and even simple on-site search bars to identify broad search intent and your “seed” keywords. Then dig deeper to find more long-tail variants, study competitors to find keyword gaps, and don’t forget to include them in your metadata as well as the anchor text for your links. Lastly, remember not to keyword stuff. Fit them in naturally so as not to disrupt the readability of your copy.
3, Focus on user experience (UX)
There is nothing worse than having to navigate a site that you can barely use. In fact, after more than a few seconds of frustration, most people don’t bother and Google will struggle to make the best out of it too. Things like dead links, error pages, and messy site structures will all impact what people take away from your website.
Not only do users value a good experience and easy navigation, but this seamlessness also helps Google’s crawlers scan your content and determine your SERP rankings. Use headings and short, easy-to-read paragraphs, tidy up your sub-folders, and optimize for mobile. All of these things will help to reduce your bounce rate, improve your rankings, and generate better conversion overall.
Speaking of experience, are you ready for Google’s Page Experience Update?
4, Focus on building relevant links
As mentioned, another key aspect in building domain reputation/site authority is link-building. We’ve already touched upon why outbound/external links are important: you not only enhance the information you are providing but you can receive reciprocal backlinks through outreach, etc.
Furthermore, links are a key ranking factor. Bots/crawlers discover content by following links through to subsequent pages and judging how relevant they are to a search query. This goes for internal linking as well, so don’t be afraid to link to other useful pages on your site where necessary and where it feels natural. 51% of marketers notice an impact after one to three months of implementing a link-building strategy.
5, Format content for Featured Snippets
Featured snippets pretty much rule SERPs these days. It’s likely that you’re familiar with them even if you haven’t heard the term before. They are the highlighted answer boxes that appear at the top of the pages for most search queries. If you manage to earn a featured snippet, you’re doing something right.
There are certain formatting and stylistic choices you can make to up your chances of landing a featured snippet: bullet points, numbered lists, infographics and answering question-based searches directly, to name a few. Whilst there is data that shows snippets don’t always result in direct clicks, as the search query is answered in the Google preview itself, over 19% of SERPs have featured snippets and counting. They are great for raising brand awareness and getting your name out there. Therefore, the clicks will still come.
6, Remove anything that slows down your site
Once again, it can’t be overstated how simple it is to get the technical stuff right in order for your website and specific content to speak for itself. Whether you’re writing informative blogs, selling a product/service, or simply pointing someone in the right direction, your site needs to be quick, accessible, and easy to use. These days, people expect instant information and instant results. If your site takes an age to load, they’ll simply move on.
There are a number of ways you can improve site speed and the overall smoothness of your UX: delete old/defunct plugins, clean up your code, optimize and compress your images, make sure your sub-folders flow and make sense, and use tools like Google Page Speed Insights or GTmetrix to continue monitoring in the future.
7, Pay attention to Google algorithm updates
We’ve briefly touched on this already but Google gets smarter and more intuitive by the day. The core updates and tweaks to the algorithm are constant and often unexpected, with sites either benefitting or being penalized for how closely they adhere to the most recent update.
Rankings and penalties are determined by a variety of factors: accessibility, speed, excessive advertising or spammy content, etc. Whilst it can’t always be avoided, there are a few easy steps you can take to stay in touching distance. Firstly, subscribe to industry websites and forums to keep track of recent/impending updates. Google’s Search Console Community is a good start – and make sure to closely track your traffic using services like Google Analytics and SEMrush to see where updates may have occurred, so you can then adjust accordingly.
8, Improve existing content & add missing subtopics
Lastly, you need to remember that there is no real finish line when it comes to your SEO strategy. Constant updates and battling with your competitors means that there’s always work to be done, not to mention that you can still improve on what you’ve done already. If you haven’t been using SEO properly already, going back and updating content with keywords, backlinks, and better readability is a great way to get started. You can even ensure that pages that have been performing better maintain traffic growth or build upon that standard by regularly updating them.
Circling back to your keyword research, this is a great opportunity to use these phrases and competitor analysis as the basis for a long-term content plan. Each keyword should branch off into a plethora of others and with that comes more ideas for content. Rather than writing, say, one piece of a specific topic, make it a ‘cornerstone’ article from which a number of other more specific ones spawn. A proper content audit can be done using tools like SEMrush and Yoast; adding and updating old content can double your traffic —just try to make it as evergreen as possible and be sure to use that internal and external linking we talked about.
Lock in SEO success for 2021
This post only scratches the surface of what SEO is all about. It’s a discipline that grows more complex and nuanced by the day, but by giving you some tried and true tips that have stood the test of time in this field, you should be well prepared to handle whatever 2021 throws at us.
To get more information and examples of SEO for beginners, intermediates, all the way up to experts, we have a wealth of resources at your disposal